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By Peter Kettle on 07-04-13
Visionary, violent, yet redemptive. A masterpiece.
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, is the most overwhelming novel I've read for years. I came late to it in two senses. It's almost 30 years since it was published in 1985, and it is late in my own reading life, because I'm 72. I read it on holiday. Not a comfortable choice, and certainly not the best thing to relax with on a sunlounger, while supping a drink with a hat on. But Blood Meridian is, at the risk of sounding pretentious, on a par with Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' or Beckett's 'Waiting For Godot' or even that most astounding work of all, 'King Lear'. High claims, but give it a try.
You might well have to try it more than once, because it is very strong - at times even rancid - meat. But a lot of people, after they've finished the book, might find they can't read another novel for a while.
I finished listening to the book, and started another. But all my head could think on was Blood Meridian. So I did something I very rarely do. I switched the other novel off and turned back to Blood Meridian, and listened to it again. It's a hell of a book. And I'm not speaking particularly metaphorically. It tells us more about the human condition than most other respectable works we laud so much. Blood Meridian is original, disturbing, heretical, challenging, difficult, and awe inspiring. Just like King Lear.
29 of 30 people found this review helpful
By Eugene on 23-12-12
Madness, Violence and Greed
The mythology of the European settlement of America begins with the search for the religious sanctuary of the Mayflower, and is enshrined in the Constitution which recognizes the equality of all men. What also saturates and permeates the American psyche is barbaric violence. Blood Meridian is a story that can't be listened to without a break for emotional recovery: it's so vicious, violent and remorseless that it is unbearable. This, of course, is the book's greatness. It's an epic saga of pitiless aggression, automatic racism, all stemming for the false self-belief, and religious hypocrisy of one of the central characters. In our contemporary society where the aim is to present the campaigns of war as fights for rights and freedom, and all of this is presented in a video game format, Blood Meridian, keeps to the fore what is still essential: the depravity of men who cannot limit or challenge their own ignorance, madness and blood lust.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Colin on 22-03-08
A friend of mine mentioned that Cormac McCarthy described his Pulitzer Prize winning 'The Road' book as his most optimistic. Having found it bleak and spare and a slice of the dystopia that seems to await us, I thought what are his non-optimistic books like. "Blood Meridian" answers this question with a punch to the consciousness that left me reeling. Brilliantly written and conceived Cormac uses starkly defined characters, almost archetypal in their construct, to drag the latent depravity and soulless nihilism embedded in the human condition. It's not easy reading. The casual descriptions of brutality are at times shocking and that, I think, is the point.
So, yes, by contrast, "The Road" is brim full of hope and optimism.
80 of 83 people found this review helpful
By Ryan on 11-07-11
A beautiful nightmare
Brutally violent, Blood Meridian turns the 19th century American West into a kind of hellish but hauntingly beautiful dreamscape, through which a gang of mercenaries wanders, killing without aim or reason. There is no comfort to be found anywhere in this novel, which overturns all Old West Myths, leaving only a stark, maddening world in which man exists on the edge of nihilism, "civilization" an illusion. The characters are almost opaque, reduced to actions in minimal dialogue. Even the language seems intended to confound and discomfit the reader, mixing arcane, half-forgotten scientific and philosophical terms with passages that sound almost like something from the Bible.
Yet, McCarthy is the definition of a powerful writer. His prose is hypnotic, the book's scenes affecting the reader as much by their eerie beauty and lyricism as by the horror and violence contained within. Their images will stick around in your head for days. The Judge, a monstrous, demihuman prodigy at the center of novel, whose amused, philosophical queries about whether or not the scenes around him represent man in man's natural state, is one of the more memorable characters I've come across in fiction.
Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is filled with powerful questions, about morality, about evil, about humanity's need for violence and dominance, about the nature of God, and so forth. Sometimes these questions are expressed explicitly, usually by the Judge, but mostly, they swirl just beneath the surface of the nightmare, challenging the reader to peer into the abyss and examine them. Though we don't live in such lawless times anymore, the distance from our safe doorsteps to the modern equivalent of a gang of roving, murderous scalpers may be shorter than we think.
McCarthy will certainly never be an author to everyone's taste, and not with this work, but Blood Meridian has made a few critics' "Best of the 20th Century" lists for a good reason. This is a first-rate work of modern literature.
74 of 77 people found this review helpful